The Giants’ standing in the NFC East has changed. Their philosophy toward it has not.
"The focus is still what the focus has been the entire year: to come to work, to improve as a team, to move forward and play our best ball next Sunday," Joe Judge said on Monday. "That’s the only thing that can help us, that’s the only thing that matters."
It’s what he told the team on Monday, the day after they lost to the Cardinals and everyone else in the division won. What Judge did not discuss was the result of that scenario: The Giants (5-8) slipped from a share of first place to second place with three games remaining, one game behind Washington (6-7), a half-game ahead of Philadelphia (4-8-1) and one game ahead of Dallas (4-9).
The players are so deliberately blind to the standings that defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson said he doesn’t even know what they are. "Not at all," he said. His focus, he said, is only on the Giants and their upcoming opponent.
At least Tomlinson said he would like for the Giants to win the division and get the home playoff game that accompanies that honor.
"The playoffs are everything," he said. "As a team, you want to get in the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. That’s the biggest thing for teams across the NFL."
Judge wouldn’t even concede that. "Our focus this year is very clear-cut and simple: to become the best team we could be, to establish a culture and lay a foundation for this program going forward," he said.
Nothing in there about the postseason, you might notice. If it happens, great. If not? That’s not how Judge will be measuring 2020 . . . even if it’s the practical way nearly everyone else will be doing so.
The Giants will face the Browns on Sunday night, at which point they will know the exact stakes of the game (if they choose to look for them). Dallas will host San Francisco and Washington will host Seattle at 1 p.m. on Sunday; the Eagles will be at Arizona at 4.
The Giants still have a decent shot at winning the division, mostly because they hold a tiebreaker advantage over Washington by virtue of their two-game sweep. If the two teams tie for first with the same record, the Giants will get the crown and a 17th game for their season.
Judge insisted he is not concerned with any of that, calling the prospect a "hypothetical" game. Nor is he at all driven, discouraged or feeling anything else toward the Giants’ untimely slip in the standings.
"Just like last week when everyone was talking about being in first place and that wasn’t our focus of the week, being in second place is not the focus of the week either," Judge said. "The only thing that’s going to help us right now is playing our best game against the Browns."